The games of chess and go can be "handicapped" by giving the weaker player a material advantage. That is, the weaker chess player gets extra pawns or pieces and the weaker go player extra stones. (Backgammon can't be reliably handicapped this way because one more or one less checker affects the dynamic of the game.) Another way to handicap go is to give the weaker player extra points (reverse komi) at the end of the game.

I have never seen any handicapping in bridge. One way is to start the weaker pair with say, an extra +300. That changes the scoring without changing the dynamic of the game. Another way would be strategic: E.g. the stronger pair has to bid and make game at the five level for all suits, not just the minors.

Has any player of note played a bridge session handicapped in some way even on a "propositional" basis? Or even proposed or discussed the possibility of such handicapping?

3 Answers 3


Certainly, you can. Whether it's at all useful is another question, as others have been saying.

The ACBL has formulas for handicapping pairs and teams (based on Masterpoint total; there is another method available for handicap based on previous results, which works well in an insular environment like a club). The grotty details are exactly that, but the TL;DR is "you get a handicap, and it's not enough".

I have never run a handicapped by masterpoint pair game; I have seen the records used to run a handicapped by results pair game, but the game they were keeping the records for stopped being handicapped at least 5 years ago.

Many ACBL Districts have a policy that if there is only one Bracket in a bracketed KO, that it will be handicapped. I've played in these a few times, and needed the handicap exactly once (given +11.5, lost by 11, 12-board match). I've had +29.5 on a 24-board match against the then World Women's Bronze Medal team (lost by 80, but have some cool stories), and I've seen higher two or three times. My experience running the games is that "the handicap mattered maybe as often as one match in each event."

I also know that this is so well-loved by all teams (the ones getting as well as the ones giving handicaps) that we are replacing them with Day 1 RR qualifying 4 teams for Day 2 KO across the board.

So, yes. And it happens. And "something to be nice to the weaker pairs, but not so much that the stronger teams don't win" is basically what ends up happening.


My local club occasionally hosts a handicap duplicate game, in which weaker pairs are spotted a few matchpoints to start.

I don't play rubber bridge, but I would imagine that you could start by spotting points as you suggest. Alternatively, you could give odds - the weaker pair might have to pay a penny a point while the stronger pair pays a nickel, for example.


Not really. The problem is that for any handicap to be meaningful the players must be quite close in ability. So close, that a handicap is pointless. Beyond that the game is either structurally altered irredeemably. If i cannot play regular rules with my regular bidding system I decline to play - why would I ruin my game and partnership understandings for a few measly bucks?

I recount some stories from my youth, when for a few years I frequented a Rubber bridge Club playing at 1¢ / point (late '70's, so scale appropriately).

Playing against opponents who could consistently place in the top 40% of a match-point game, I would finish a 3 hour session up between 2500 and 4000 points, for a $25 to $40 gross profit (card fees still due).

In a few dozen such sessions over 2.5 years I never lost money in that game. I never even won less than $10 over a 3-4 hour session.





And I was only about the 10th or 12 best player in the club (most of whom played only in the 2¢ game) and not even the best regular in the 1¢ game.

However much of my winnings paid for expensive backgammon lessons until I became almost as good in that game as I was in bridge.

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